Interview with Alex Wynnter about his new co-designed asymmetric game, The Damsel’s Tale. Will you be the baby dragon or the knight?

Alex, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule, to tell us about The Damsel’s Tale. We will jump right in, could you tell us a little bit about the gameplay?

Alex: Damsel’s is a 2 player asymmetrical game about a sneaky knight diving into a dragon cave inhabited by a baby dragon to steal a crown. The Knight wins when he gets his hands on the crown, the baby dragon that is a little defenseless has to prove to its mum that there is a dragon in the cave and wins when his mother sees it.

Each player has a hand of 6 cards of which they discard two at random. Each player then selects a card simultaneously and they reveal at the same time. All the cards have an order in which they are player marked clearly at the top, and players will resolve the actions on each card in that order to move pieces on the board.

The board has a track the knight must follow which consists of being in plain view, crashing through noisy spaces or hiding. Both players manipulate game state and its all about reading your opponent, knowing the cards and timing things just right.

Every game has a creation story. What is the story behind The Damsel’s Tale creation?

Alex: This was actually created during a competitive game jam quite a few years ago. It was originally designed as a monster from the closet trying to get to a little boy in bed, and the boy had to prove to his parents there was actually a monster. The theme transferred pretty easily into the Vague World. The two other people I worked with have since lessened their involvement of the game design scene and I took it up again about 2 years ago and kept tinkering. It has since changed quite a bit with how the cards function, but the componentry and game style has remained the same.

Why the theme change?

Alex: So after the release of The Brigade on Kickstarter, we also released a Lore Book Digital Download. It was free for everyone. In the Lore Book, each character (and building) had a short story written for them, as well as including the newspapers we released during the campaign, and the best comments we had was that people were happy with the amount of lore behind each character and how the character, lore, and mechanic meshed. After this awesome feedback, we decided to create everything within the now named Vague World. The Brigade and Tinderbox was one story within a large world, and now The Damsel’s Tale is too. The main character Ivan Bertrand is a character from The Brigade. In the stretch goals we have a few characters, all new ones except for one – Chops Murphy – also from The Brigade, a mercenary.

The idea is that we will continue the stories within a game with one or more of the characters already invented and introduce new content.

Also, like the last time, we will be releasing a Lore Book VII which will have more short stories in it based on all the characters in Damsel’s.

Did you find it challenge at all to make sure the sides were not only balanced but I assume feel different to play?

Alex: With different objectives they definitely do. The best way to explain it is that the night focuses on terrorising the Dragon and movement, with a little Mumma manipulation. The baby Dragon focuses on not being scared, Mumma Dragon and a little on Knight manipulation.

While it was a challenge originally, the subsequent 40 million playtests had to adjust the powers of the cards and the order of play to make it fair.

40 million? Heh. On a serious note, what was the best piece of feedback you received from a playtester about DamselsTale?

Alex: Well, that may be a little of an exaggeration hahaha. It’s a game that you get better at the more you play – I actually had to keep doing blind playtests, and playtest with people of equal skill level because I knew the game too well – I had to take myself out of the equation.

Do you have a favorite side to play?

Alex: I do like being the knight. He is slightly harder to play with and its a good challenge.

What has been your favorites part of this whole experience?

Alex: This game has actually been one of my favourite to design. We had restrictions in the game jam, and we kept to them and it really forced the creativity.

Another part is the characters. The artist captured the characters so well, and now I’ve seen the bonus characters she had done it again!

As we wrap this up, my last question is, has there been any lessons you’ve learned with designing The Damsel’s Tale you will take with you as a designer?

Alex: In my line of work simplicity/minimalism is the hardest thing to do – the smaller it is, the easier out is to see any mistakes. As designers, we often try and put more and more and more in it. This was a good lesson in holding back. There were at least three major rules that had to be reassessed and taken out to get it to this level.

The lesson being K.I.S.S.

Thanks again, Alex for taking the time out to do this interview.